Pope Francis delivers his livestreamed Angelus prayer on Jan. 24. (Photo: Vatican Media/AFP)
Members of the clergy should always remember they are part of the people of God and not an elite group that stands above the faithful, Pope Francis said.
In a video message sent Jan. 24 to Peruvian Bishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo, president of the Latin American bishops' council, also known as CELAM, the pope said the council's upcoming meeting with the laity highlights the importance of remaining "together with the people of God."
"This ecclesial assembly should not be a gathering of the elite, separated from the holy, faithful people of God," he said. "Do not forget that we are part of the people of God."
The message was sent to participants of a virtual meeting at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City in preparation for the Nov. 21-28 Ecclesial Assembly of Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to CELAM, the weeklong assembly will be "an experience of listening, dialogue and encounter" that seeks to address the "challenge, within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, to revive our pastoral commitment and to look for new paths so that we may all have life in abundance."
In his message, the pope noted the unique nature of the assembly, which is "not a conference of the Latin American bishops as was done in past years, the last one being in Aparecida."
"No, it is something else," he said. "It is a meeting of the people of God: lay women and men, consecrated women and men, priests, bishops -- the whole people of God walking together. They pray, they talk, they think, they discuss, they look for the will of God."
To ensure the assembly "opens new horizons of hope," Pope Francis the preparation must emphasize unity because anything else would give rise to "elites enlightened by one ideology, by another, and that is not the church."
"The church offers itself to everyone, without exclusion. And the ecclesial assembly is a sign of this: a church without exclusion," the pope said.
Pope Francis said another essential aspect of preparation is prayer, which serves as a reminder that "the Lord is among us."